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Who’s the best teacher at the UA? has answers

Courtesy Rate my Professors
Rate my Professors is an app that students use often to give reviews about their professors. Many students use this app to decide if they should take a certain class or not. is a popular site for information on the University of Arizona and its professors, with information from both UA students and UA faculty. The site’s main goal is to help students learn more about a specific course and its instructor before they opt to enroll in the course.

According to these ratings, here are the best — and worst — teachers at the UA:

Highest rated:

Maria Rita Meli, an Italian Studies instructor, is the highest overall rated instructor on Rate My Professors from UA. With 41 student ratings, she has received a 5.0 overall quality and a 100 percent retake rate. 

“During my own time as a student, I used Rate My Professors to look at profiles of professors I had that upcoming semester,” Meli said. “Now that I’ve become the professor, curiosity gets the better of me every now and again. Each semester I will have some students tell me that they registered for my course based on what they saw on Rate My Professor, but those comments do not influence my teaching.”

Other teachers that also have 5.0 ratings but have fewer reviews include Jason Gervase, an instructor of disability & psychoeducational studies, and Regents Professor of electrical and computer engineering Michael Marcellin. 

There are hundreds of teachers with 5.0 ratings, many with only one or two reviews.

Most rated

Steven Reff, a lecturer for the Economics Department, has received the most student ratings, with 477 dating back to 2007.

One of these reviews reads, “The best class so far in college!!! take this class!!! it is o [sic] engaging. he is hillarious and really tries to make the class laugh. his lectures are simple and easy to understand. i dont know how he does it, but he makes economics fun.” 

          RELATED: Retired econ professor’s website continues to help students succeed

In second place, with 354 reviews, is John Pollard, the assistant dean for academic affairs and a chemistry professor, who had reviews from as early as 2004.

One of the ratings Pollard received reads, “Dr. Pollard is the best professor that I have had at college. He is super invested in every student’s learning and cares about the development in the way that you think.”

Least Difficult

The least difficult teacher still teaching at the UA that has filled-out reviews was Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology Phil Malan. 

According to one of his two reviews, “Dr. Malan is THE BEST. He takes the time to help his students and he understands them. We should have more like him.”

Malan has a 5.0 overall quality rating and a 1.0 level of difficulty rating.

The teacher that is actually listed as the least difficult with one incomplete rating is Seth Marder, who has a 1.0 overall rating and a 1.0 level of difficulty rating. He currently teaches chemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology , where he has a 2.5 overall quality rating and a 3.5 level of difficulty based on two reviews.

Teacher Course Evaluations

The University of Arizona also has its own form of the Rate My Professors website, the Teacher-Course Evaluations made available to every student to complete at the end of the semester. Although the TCEs do not seem to be as popular to the student population, professors find them to be very helpful.

“I will sometimes look at [the website] the same time I look at my TCEs. They provide another interesting perspective on the student experience in my classes. To be honest, I have not found the RMP comments to be useful in guiding my teaching practices,” Pollard said. 

The TCE comments tend to be more useful for students’ perceptions on the course and how much they enjoy the specific teaching style, according to Pollard.

“I always look at the TCE ratings and comments left by students at the end of every semester,” Meli said. “I do want to stress for students filling out the TCE, they are completely anonymous and incredibly helpful to instructors and departments.”

Susan Jorstad, a biology professor, received 282 student ratings, with a 3.3 rating level and a 4.3 level of difficulty on Rate My Professors. 

“I’ve seen the posts, and some are pretty harsh. I try to avoid it because students say really cruel and often untrue things,” Jorstad said. “Students have told me that they hesitated to sign up for my sections of the course because of the negative reviews on Rate My Professors.”

The TCEs have helped professors become a more reliable source for student feedback and a way to improve the course and their teaching style, according to Jorstad. 

          RELATED: UA regents professor Carol Barnes elected to prestigious National Academy of Sciences

Business management junior Lauren Harlan was not aware that the TCEs were available for students to access after the course. 

“When I fill out TCEs, I try to make them more positive than negative, even if I didn’t have a great experience in the class,” Harlan said. “I use Rate My Professors to look up teachers and I do base my classes off of them. I never have put in a rating myself.” 

Accounting senior Rachel Burkholder has used Rate My Professors her entire college career and finds the website to be a reliable source, due to the administrators monitoring the comments before they are posted. 

“I use Rate My Professors to mainly look at the comments that other students leave about the teacher’s personality,” Burkholder said. “Each student has a different idea of whether a class is hard or not, so I like to find out what the teacher’s personality will be like. If there is a high rate on a teacher and I am in between two classes, I will definitively choose the one that was higher on Rate My Professors.” 

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